Twins fans have seen this before from Francisco Liriano and now Pirates fans are seeing it too. Great. Terrible. Great. Terrible. Repeat as needed.
Liriano was a huge part of Pittsburgh’s rise to the playoffs last season, going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 161 innings on the way to the Comeback Player of the Year award. And now this season he’s 0-4 with a 4.86 ERA through 10 starts, serving up seven homers already after allowing a total of nine homers in 26 starts last year.
Compared to last season Liriano’s average fastball velocity is down from 93.0 miles per hour to 92.0 miles per hour, and both his slider and changeup are down about the same speed. However, he’s actually generating more ground balls and more swinging strikes than last season and his secondary numbers suggest he’s pitched more like a 3.50 ERA guy than a 4.86 ERA guy so far if luck were to even out.
Pittsburgh desperately needs Liriano to pitch like he did last season if they’re going to dig out of this early 18-26 hole and while he’s been frustrating to watch so far there’s reason to believe he can get back on track.
José Bautista hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018 but the 39-year-old isn’t done playing just yet. Last month, we learned via a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player. He spent the winter working out as a pitcher.
Bautista had also been working with former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman. Back in January, Stroman tweeted, “My bro @JoeyBats19 is nasty on the mound. We been working working. All jokes aside, this man can pitch in a big league bullpen. I’ll put my word on it!”
In March, Passan added some details about Bautista, writing, “I’ve seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn’t tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt — threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.” Stroman retweeted it, adding, “Facts!”
Stroman reiterated his feelings on Tuesday. He tweeted, “Since y’all thought I wasn’t being serious when I said it the first time…my bro @JoeyBats19could EASILY pitch in a big league bullpen. Easily. Sinker, slider, and changeup are MLB ready!” Stroman attached a video of Bautista throwing a slider, in which one can hear Stroman calling the pitch “nasty.”
Stroman attached another video of Bautista throwing a glove-side sinker:
Replying to a fan, Stroman said Bautista’s body “is in better shape than 90-95% of the league.”
I am not a scout and won’t pretend to be one after watching two low-resolution videos. And Stroman’s hype is likely partially one friend attempting to uplift another. That being said, I’ve seen much worse from position players attempting to pitch. It’s a long shot, especially given his age, that Bautista will ever pitch in the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity to pitch in front of major league scouts.